Wednesday, August 31, 2005

An end to immunity for cross-border drivers?

Daily Ireland reports that "Irish transport minister Martin Cullen yesterday signalled an end to the split personality of Irish motorists when he revealed he had asked the European Commission to expedite a European Union-wide penalty system for our roads. One hopes the commission responds speedily to Mr Cullen’s entreaties but surely also needed on this small island is one set of speed limits and one set of penalties." The Irish Independent has also published figures which shows that "42,000 drivers have escaped penalty points even though they were caught without insurance, driving carelessly, speeding or for seat belt offences."


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

RoI "is getting away with flagrant breach of its responsibilities" - Allister

A press release from DUP MEP Jim Allister reports that Mr Allister: "raised with the EU Commission at the Fisheries Committee in Brussels, the failure of the Republic of Ireland to honour its obligations under Council Regulation EC 1447/1999 to make full and proper returns about how it has dealt with infringements of fishing policy regulations." More Here

"The 1999 Regulation requires each state to report on the number of infringements detected and the penalties imposed. The latest figures show the UK top the list of fines, with an average penalty of 78,000 Euro per infringement, whereas most countries' average is in hundreds of euros, while the Republic of Ireland hasn't bothered to make returns as to any fines imposed.

Mr Allister said:
"The perception in my country, the UK, is that our government is assiduous, to the point of being fanatical, about imposing EU Regulations, while others happily ignore their obligations. These figures seem to bear out this perception. In the fishery sector we have to compete with others, yet we find that our nearest neighbour is getting away with flagrant breach of its responsibilities, fuelling a belief that while our fishermen play by the rules others have the advantage of flouting the rules. It is up to the Commission to demonstrate that it will not tolerate such a situation. I am, therefore, looking for appropriate infringement proceedings against the offending countries. All must be equal before EU law and all equally subject to it."
In response the Commission representative indicated infringement proceedings were indeed an option being examined and more information should emerge in due course."


Non access to Aircoach buses at the Europa station: anti competitive under EU legislation?

The Belfast Telegraph reports that a row has erupted between Translink and Aircoach over the right to use the Europa bus station. The two companies are in competitions over the Belfast-Dublin Airport route: "at present Aircoach, which launched its service last summer, operates from outside Jury's Inn at Fisherwick Place, but its buses are often hampered by traffic congestion. Marc Reddy, the Aircoach managing director, said they had first asked for access to Europa Buscentre in March, but that their "many requests" had not met with a favourable response. "We believe this could be viewed as anti-competitive under EU legislation, particularly as other bus and coach operators are allowed into this facility. It is a disappointing position, particularly that the passenger is suffering most in having to wait on the street, and we hope that it will be resolved. We believe in encouraging the use of public transport, rather than making obstacles for customers."


Monday, August 29, 2005

Irish Government Plans to Join EU Battle Group

Ian Kehoe from the Sunday Business Post reports that: "After months of vacillating, the Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea, expects to bring proposals for Irish involvement in so-called EU battle groups to the cabinet within the next five weeks. If passed, the move could see Irish troops participating in an EU rapid reaction force within two years. Irish participation in the battle groups, which involve soldiers from a number of countries working together as a cohesive military unit, have been shrouded in controversy from the beginning. Critics have argued that it runs contrary to Ireland's traditional policy of neutrality. Even the government has admitted that certain legal obstacles will have to be overcome." Kehoe also quotes an Irish defence official who said in relation to the forthcoming difficulties to convince the Irish that Ireland will remain a neutral state: “make no bones about it - that will be our biggest difficulty... there is an emotional attachment to neutrality that if almost hard to comprehend.”


"EU Constitutional Treaty on track for debate" - Noel Treacy

As spotted by United Irelander, Mr. Noel Treacy, T.D., Minister for European Affair has recently stated that: "The holidays are drawing to a close. In other circumstances we might now be locked in a heated debate on a referendum to determine whether Ireland should ratify the European Constitution, but that is not to be this year. One could be tempted to draw relief at that, frankly I am very disappointed. Following the rejection of the Constitution in France and the Netherlands, the European Council paused the ratification process in order to give time for reflection, and is set to revisit it during the Austrian Presidency : we welcomed that decision. The Government remains committed to the Constitution and to using this year to engage the public on the issue of Europe...It is salutary that the product of an exercise involving so much effort and care has been rejected in two referendums. That has led to calls for a debate on the future of Europe, but we should not forget that the process leading to the Constitution itself began with similar calls, reflected in the declarations of Nice and Laeken. Nor should we forget that Spain and Luxembourg approved the Constitution by referendum as have the Parliaments of eleven further member states. The point of this is that we should not deceive ourselves about the likely outcomes of launching new processes. Let's focus on what we might achieve, starting with improving the basis for discussion and debate."


SF MEP on Sectarian Violence

Speaking from Ballymena and commenting on the upsurge of sectarian violence, SF MEP Mary Lou McDonald said last Wednesday: "it is very clear from my meetings today that there is an orchestrated effort being made to drive Catholics and nationalists out of certain areas in North Antrim. This is completely unacceptable. It is also clear that local nationalists feel that a climate has been created by the actions of local unionist politicians which has directly fed into the environment in which this campaign has flourished." These comments were criticized by the UUP East Belfast MLA Alderman Michael Copeland: "It is clear from Ms McDonald'’s comments that she completely oblivious to the reality on the ground in these areas."


CAP Watch

The Financial Times reports that the CAP reform will be closely scrutinized in Northern Ireland: "Farming is vital to its economy, accounting for 6-8 per cent of the economic activity compared with about 1 per cent for England and Wales. In spite of the changes in land use and the growing mechanisation of most processes, the sector is still a big employer, with 15,000 full- time farmers or 80,000 when those in the food processing industries are included." In the meantime, DUP MEP Jim Allister complains on the EU Commission plan to restrict the fishing of wild eels which, he argues, would hardly hist fishermen from Lough Neagh and the River Bann. More here

Here is the full communique from Jim Allister:

Brussels, having brought ruination to much of our sea fishing industry in Northern Ireland, is now turning its attention to the eel fishing industry, in which Northern Ireland occupies a key niche position.

The Commission has proposals to introduce a management plan for eels involving a stock recovery scheme which could involve severe restrictions on eel fishing rights. The Commission is considering a fishing ban in certain areas, minimum landing sizes and closed seasons. The proposals were debated today in the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament. I took the opportunity to stress the importance of our well-managed eel fishery based on Lough Neagh, both to the economy of that part of Northern Ireland (with 200 livelihoods involved) and to Europe as a whole to whom we export much of our catch.

Lough Neagh and the Lower River Bann supports the largest remaining commercial wild eel fishery in Europe. It produces 25% of the total recorded EU wild catch. I stressed the dangers to our self-regulated industry of a typical "one size fits all" Brussels approach, by pointing out that under the management of the Lough Neagh Fishermen's Cooperative Society there are already in place adequate conservation measures, including enforced daily quotas for each boat, a licensing system and escape routes at Kilrea and Toome weirs whereby at least 40% of the migrating mature silver eels escape out to sea for spawning. Thus, I argued to the Committee that, whatever the needs elsewhere for restriction, within Northern Ireland there is no justification for such draconian measures. Instead, the Commission should be focusing upon banning the sale of elvers out of Europe to the Far East as thereby they are lost forever to the European industry and, secondly, restrictions should be focused upon the eel farm sector where there is no escape of large eels, so that they can spawn and replenish the natural stock.

Notes to editors:

1. Eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea in the Western Central Atlantic Ocean. The larvae drift and swim into river mouths all over Europe and Northern Africa, from where they migrate upstream to spend most of their lives. Eventually the oldest eels will migrate downstream and across the Atlantic when they will spawn once and die.

2. The smallest eels (glass eels and elvers) are fished for stocking and on-growing in aquaculture, whilst older eels (brown eels and silver eels) are fished directly for food. Most are exported to Europe as part of a £5 million industry.

3. Lough Neagh and the Lower River Bann support the largest remaining wild eel fishery in Europe. The system produces 25% of the total recorded EU wild catch.

4. Fishing rights to all eel life stages are owned by the Lough Neagh Fishermen's Cooperative Society (LNFCS). The fishery is well managed and restricts annual catch of brown eels to 400-500 T and the catch of silver eels to 100-150 T. The escape of silver eels for spawning is at least equivalent to the catch because of the maintenance of a generous gap at the weirs where fishing is prohibited and thereby escape for spawning is guaranteed.

5. The Lough Neagh operation supports up to 150 boats each with a crew of two men and thus some 300 families may derive and depend on income from the fishery.

6. As natural decline in the recruitment of elvers to the Lough has been observed, the LNFCS has purchased 73 million glass eels for stocking purposes over the last 20 years and, at the same time, has regulated its industry through licensing and quota imposition.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

UUP wants quotas for Non-UK students

UUP East Antrim Assembly Member Ken Robinson MLA is urging Universities to impose quotas on non-UK students: "Reports suggest that top Universities are turning away up to 16 candidates for every place available on popular courses. This scramble for places, which will intensify now that the A-level results have been announced, follows a rush by prospective students to avoid paying top-up fees of up to £3,000 a year from next September. Nationally, applications have risen by 8.2 per cent but in some universities this figure has been as high as 29 per cent...It would be interesting to establish the ratio of UK students being educated in EU Universities to the number of EU students being educated in UK Universities. I believe this may well show that there is little reciprocation in European Universities compared to the number of EU students we educate I the UK. That is mainly because people want to be educated in the UK in English with UK degrees since English is one of the world’s leading languages and certainly he world’s number one business language...The time has surely come for some sort of Quota or more balanced system to be devised for EU and non-EU students at UK Universities. There is a lot of talk about how much Universities raise from non-public sources. However, the vast bulk of their income still comes from the taxpayer and the UK taxpayer wants our school leavers given priority in the quest for University places."


Allister is Planning to Challenge the Programme "Active European Citizenship"

DUP MEP Jim Allister is planning to question the programme "Promotion of Active European Citizenship" at the European Parliament: "The European Commission'’s unending quest to ever expand Brussels'’ control and power, with no regard to cost or need, is well illustrated by a current proposal to vastly expand a programme going under the title, "promoting active European citizenship." This programme was launched for 3 years at the start of 2004. In consequence of misgivings, not least by the UK, the Commission gave an undertaking that an external evaluation of the worth of the programme would be produced if there was a proposal to extend it beyond 2006. Now just such a proposal has been made, but the assurance of an external evaluation has been breached. Brussels now wants to greatly expand the programme and extend it to 2013. Its overtly political purpose, which dovetails with the attempts to foist an EU Constitution upon us, is clear from its two key objectives of forming an ever closer Europe” and forging a European identity. In order to bring some accountability to the Commission'’s actions, I have tabled the Questions below in the European Parliament for answer by the Commission.I also welcome the fact that the European Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons has declared itself unhappy with these developments and has called for answers from the Government."

More here

"Subject: Promotion of active European citizenship

In connection with the proposal to enhance and extend the current European citizenship programme beyond its initial expiry date of 31 December 2006, is it correct that the Commission gave an assurance to the UK Government that an external evaluation, including value for money, would be produced alongside any proposal to renew the programme after 2006? If so, has that evaluation been produced and if not, why not? How can the Commission justify proposing a greatly expanded programme without producing an evaluation of the existing one and without evidence concerning the effectiveness of the expenditure proposed?"

Subject: Legal basis for proposed expansion of active European citizenship

In light of the limitation of Article 308 of the EC Treaty to measures related to “the operation of the common market”, what legal basis is relied upon to justify the current proposal to enhance and extend the current European citizenship programme beyond its initial expiry date of 31 December 2006?"


SF MEP Urges the DUP to act over Sectarian Violence

After visiting Ahoghill, Ballymena, Rasharkin and the Short Strand, SF MEP Mary Lou McDonald said: "It is also clear that local nationalists feel that a climate has been created by the actions of local unionist politicians which has directly fed into the environment in which this campaign has flourished. For decades Catholics and nationalists in areas like North Antrim have been discriminated against at every level. It is now clear that nationalists simply won't stand for this any longer and the DUP in particular in this area need to wake up to that reality. The DUP sit on the various Forums and Commissions with the leaderships of the UDA and UVF. From the Third Force to Ulster Resistance the DUP have been directly linked to violent unionism. No nationalist believes that the DUP do not have influence with unionist paramilitaries and no nationalist believes that they cannot put pressure on to have this campaign ended if that is what they actually want. It would also serve those politicians in the 26 counties well if they travelled here to North Antrim or to the Short Strand to see exactly where the threat to the peace process comes from. It does not come from the Colombia Three returning home, or any republican activity as they would have people believe. It comes from the unionist paramilitaries and the failure of the unionist parties to tackle this issue head on."


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Nicholson Welcomes lift on UK Beef Export Ban

In a statement Mr Nicholson said, “This has been a long road with many false dawns but now it would appear to be more positive. We can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel and we can look forward to the end of the OTMS scheme which has been in existence since BSE hit the UK, although it may have to remain in a limited form to cull animals born before 1996 which can never enter the food chain. The current hope is this can begin in November but we should not be surprised if there is a slight delay on this date from past experience. The lifting of the ban, while welcome, should not lead to any euphoria on the part of farmers. It will be a help but I believe the road back will be long and hard as others now have the markets we once held. At least we can now hope to put this most unpleasant and difficult time behind us.”


NI Parties Attempt to Seduce EU Migrant Workers

The Newsletter reports that SF is trying to attract votes from migrant workers in the Newry area. "I passed a house recently where about 50 were having a party and, as they are mostly Catholic, they are more sympathetic to the nationalist outlook" said Sinn Fein MLA for Newry and Armagh, Davy Hyland. It is estimated that there are 20.000 migrant workers in Northern Ireland. According to Patrick Yu, of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, migrant workers from EU eastern European accession countries can only vote if they can secure work contracts of 12 months or longer, which employers are not likely to give at present. However, the Newsletter does not say which elections Mr Yu is refering to. Under the current regulations, any EU citizens residing in Northern Ireland is allowed to vote for local councils votes and MEP elections. This reminds me of UUP Michael McGimpsey on the multicultural aspect of NI society (11/07/05): "Northern Ireland is a multi-cultural society. That is a fact. We may not always perceive ourselves to be so, although the evidence is all around us if we care to look. We may not be a great metropolis in the manner of London or New York, but we are on a much smaller scale a society of varying and rich cultures. "


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Allister accuses the NIO to have released Sean Kelly without consulting the PSNI

DUP MEP Jim Allister made this statement in relation to the release of Sean Kelly: "In a response to my representations to the Secretary of State over his decision to release Sean Kelly, Lord Rooker (replying on Hain’s behalf as the SOS is on holiday) has confirmed that Kelly was released without consulting the PSNI or taking their advice. Considering that Kelly was detained because he was believed to be “a danger to others if he were at liberty”, I am astounded that a decision was reached on a matter so entwined with the public’s safety without any consultation with the police. To me this confirms the brazenly political nature of Hain’s decision and the fact that the demand of the IRA Army Council meant more to him than any possible police view. Clearly, Kelly could not have been detained without consultation with the police, but he was granted political release without even the façade of seeking a police view. This is a Government clearly prepared to play fast and loose with public safety all in the interests of serving a greater political gameplan. This is the politics of deals, not honour."


Friday, August 12, 2005

Allister Attacks 50:50 recruitment of PSNI

DUP MEP Jim Allister released this statement: “50:50 recruitment to the PSNI, with its inherent discrimination against Protestant applicants, is in conflict with the basic tenets of Council Directive 2000/78/EC, which lays down guarantees of equal treatment in employment and occupation. In order to legitimise 50:50 recruitment the UK had to secure the insertion of "particular provisions" into the Directive in October 2000, which permitted a relevant derogation. (Chpt III Art 15(1) and Recital 34 refer.)Under the Directive Member States are required to report to the Commission by 2 December 2005 on the measures they have taken to implement the Directive. The Commission shall then draw up a report on the steps taken by Member States to secure equal treatment in employment. In this exercise it has been confirmed to me in a written answer (E-1927/04), that the Commission will review the "particular provisions" of Article 15. This pending review, I believe, should be used as a focus of a renewed campaign to end the inequity of 50:50 recruitment. Accordingly, I urge all who are opposed to the discrimination explicit in 50:50 recruitment to make vigorous representations both to HMG in terms of its report to Brussels and the Commission in regard to its own review and report. Certainly, as a MEP I will be doing so and I will be happy to liase with all those interested in ending this discrimination, with a view to presenting cogent and co-ordinated representations.”


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

"Ahern must come clean over Speaking Rights" - Nicholson

In a statement the UUP MEP Jim Nicholson said, "The justifiable and intense anger within the Unionist community to the proposed plan to grant speaking rights to MPs and MEPs from Northern Ireland has sparked a huge debate in the Republic with the vast majority of TD’s, according to the Sunday Independent survey, against the idea. The Irish Prime Minister must come clean and clarify what is his Government’s position on this issue because conflicting reports have appeared, in recent days, which question who really is in charge in the Republic of Ireland." More here "On the one hand the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams believes he has a commitment from Bertie Ahern that steps will taken to grant speaking rights and on the other the Taioseach denies this stating that speaking rights will not be granted but rather that the Dail will ‘facilitate committee discussions with MPs and MEPs from Northern Ireland on matters relating to Northern Ireland and the Belfast Agreement. This and recent developments regarding the Colombia three raise serious question over who is really in charge in the Irish Republic. Is Bertie really in the driving seat or are Adams and McGuinness the back seat drivers? Whatever proposal emerges from this sordid side deal my party and my community will remain resolutely opposed to anything that undermines the constitutional position of Northern Ireland and drives a horse and cart through the principle of consent.”


Northern Irish Farmers gets compensation Package for 2002 Bad Weather

The Departement of Agriculture and Regional Development is going to distribute £4.6 millions to Northern Irish Farmers for the "losses to production and increased costs during the bad weather in 2002" said Agriculture Minister, Jeff Rooker. "It has been a very challenging process to get to this point. To satisfy demanding State Aids Rules, we have had to demonstrate and quantify to the European Commission in great detail the extent to which losses actually occurred. This required strong supporting statistical evidence and it was only where this was available that a convincing case could be made. I am keen that administration of this scheme should be as simple as possible. For the most part, payments will be linked to 2002 Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) support schemes and milk quota records." The news of this package has been welcomed by DUP MEP Jim Allister: "I welcome the announcement from Lord Rooker that there will be partial compensation which at long last is going to be paid out to farmers. Although coming three years after the proposal was made, it still will be very welcome for the farming community."


Monday, August 08, 2005

"Columbia Three": Allister Calls on the EU to Pressurise Dublin

A Press Release from DUP MEP Jim Allister said: "Since the EU boldly proclaims its commitment to the international fight against terrorism, I have today taken steps to raise the uninhibited return of the Columbia 3 to Dublin with both the Council of Ministers and the Commission. I have tabled the following Oral Question for the parliamentary sessions in September: Following the unimpeded return of convicted terrorist fugatives, Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley, to the Republic of Ireland from Columbia, and given the EU's declared commitment to support the fight against international terrorism, what steps has the Council of Ministers/Commission taken to ensure that the Irish government does not provide sanctuary for these international terrorists and is the Council/Commission satisfied that Europol did everything possible to thwart their return? I have also circulated every MEP with a comment urging maximum pressure on Dublin to live up to its international obligations. I fully intend to use the forum and facilities of the European Parliament to keep the focus on this issue, believing that it is intolerable for any civilised government to harbour terrorists. Ahern and his seemingly robust Justice Minister must now be put to the test.”


Saturday, August 06, 2005

New UUP Agricultural Spokesman Attacks Tony Blair on UK Rebate

The new UUP agricultural spokesman, Tom Elliott Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA, recently said: "The CAP budget, while far from equitable, does provide the main source of income for most farmers in Northern Ireland. If Tony Blair persists on linking the CAP budget to the UK rebate in negotiations it could spell disaster for millions of British farmers."


Friday, August 05, 2005

Gliding Club gets £40.000 of EU Money

The Belfast Telegraph reports that "the renowned Ulster Gliding Club at Magilligan scooped £40,000 in EU money because of its groundbreaking work in sustainable tourism and bridge building between communities over the last 75 years."


Allister asks consumers to buy NI Beef

DUP MEP Jim Allister, yesterday, urged NI consumers to buy Northern Irish beef: “The majority of the major supermarkets are selling South American beef alongside beef produced on Northern Ireland farms. As a result of the supermarkets bringing in this product, the price paid to farmers for cattle within Northern Ireland has fallen by over 12% over the last number of months. Many of the major multiples are putting short term profits over the long term sustainability for the largest industry within Northern Ireland. Farmers within Northern Ireland cannot afford to take the price they are currently receiving for beef which they are currently selling. Product coming from Northern Ireland is produced to high Quality Assurance standards with strict environmental and animal welfare standards. This is compared to beef coming from South America that is likely to be reared on farms with little or no regard to either the environment or animal welfare. When consumers are purchasing products in the supermarket they should take time and consider what they are buying. By purchasing products from Northern Ireland, they are not only supporting their local industry, but getting a superior product and looking after the environment.”


Thursday, August 04, 2005

"We will give Reg Empey seven days to admit his part" - Robinson

The row between the UUP and the DUP about the existence of an agreement over the right of Northern Irish MPs and MEPs to speak in the Irish Dail has escallated yesterday with DUP Peter Robinson accusing Reg Empey, the UUP leader, of hypocracy: "It is especially hypocritical of Reg Empey to try to pass the buck on the plan to allow Northern Ireland MPs and MEPs to debate in a committee of the Irish parliament given the role he and his party had in that plan. Mr Empey claims that the DUP was asleep at the wheel when this matter came forward. To enable the unionist community to determine who had nodded off, the only fact that needs to be determined is whose hands were on the wheel when this issue was negotiated. We will give Reg Empey seven days to admit his part in it or we will publish the evidence." More here
"We challenge Reg Empey to deny that the proposal he now condemns arose directly from discussions in April of 1998 of which he was a part as a senior UUP negotiator. The recommendation from the Dail Committee on the Constitution is now over two years old and was made while he and David Trimble were leading negotiations with Sinn Fein. Interestingly, when the proposal was first publicised on the BBC News website on 21st March 2002, Reg Empey – who now claims this is an embryonic united Ireland – did not say one word about it. Indeed not one member of the UUP uttered a word. There was not a single complaint from the UUP about the issue. There was no complaint because the UUP was a party to the proposal. Now the UUP are attempting to blame the DUP for the crime they committed. Furthermore, a letter to Dr Paisley dated the 7th December 2004 from the Prime Minister Tony Blair states clearly that “I understand that they [the proposals] originated before any negotiations with the DUP began. They have formed no part of the discussions in which you and your party have participated”.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

"I would Welcome the opportunity to Debate with Nicholson and Allister" - Bairbre de Brun

A press release from SF reports that SF MEP Bairbre de Brun said: "Sinn Féin would welcome moves by the Irish Government to secure the rights of Six County political representatives to participate in the Dáil. Sinn Féin has consistently raised the question of participation of northern representatives to the Dáil and we would welcome any move by the Irish government to give effect to these commitments. I would welcome the opportunity to debate with both Jim Nicholson MEP and Jim Allister MEP on local, national and international issues in the Dáil. Partition has failed both the nationalist and unionist communities. I would call upon unionists political representatives to think outside the box and embrace the dynamics of all-Ireland politics. I look forward to the day when I can address other political representatives from north and south in the Dáil."


Nicholson rules out participation in the Irish Dail

A communique from the UUP reports that "MEP Jim Nicholson has taken the Irish Government to task over their decision to take steps in September to grant speaking rights in the Irish Parliament to MEPs and MPs from Northern Ireland. Mr Nicholson has pledged to oppose the move and categorically ruled out ever setting foot in the Irish Parliament to participate in Dail debates or committees. In a statement Mr Nicholson said, The decision is deplorable and undermines the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. More here It drives a horse and cart through the principle of consent and must be opposed by Unionists throughout the province. The Unionist community will not tolerate such an aggressive assault on our sovereignty by a jurisdiction, which has been so hostile in the past. The Irish Government, like our own, have capitulated to Sinn Fein's insatiable demands and have undermined any future relationship Unionists may have with Dublin. They have taken Unionist attempts to forge a new relationship with the Republic, based on Northern Ireland's position as an integral part of the UK, and thrown them back in our face. This is not the time for the DUP to engage in political point scoring but for Unionists to unite in opposition to this plan. The DUP's childish attempts to pass the buck and save face are most unhelpful. As the lead party within Unionism, it is a shame they couldn't do more to stop this. Mr Nicholson concluded, Make no mistake, as my Party Leader said at the weekend, we will not hesitate in introducing sanctions should speaking rights be granted in the Autumn."


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Government reaction to IRA statement is an act of Outstanding Stupidity - Jim Nicholson

A press release from the UUP tells that UUP MEP said that “the Government’s reaction to the IRA statement can only be described as an act of outstanding stupidity. To act on IRA words alone without any hint of imminent action is stupid given that this terrorist organisation has never delivered on past promises. The Unionist community have been left stunned by a series of sweeping security changes, which have taken place before the ink is even dry on the IRA statement. The Government’s reaction has come without any hint of remorse from Republicans for their murderous deeds or commitment from them to dismantle their vast criminal empire. No wonder the people of Northern Ireland feel betrayed. Sadly, I fear that this will not be the Government’s last act of outstanding stupidity and that more acts of appeasement are planned to placate Republican’s insatiable demands.”


Controversies over the Attendance of Irish MEPs

It has been reported that the Irish MEPs have the "sixth worst attendance" in the Strasbourg Parliament. However, the story does not tell the rate of Irish MEPs at the Brussels Parliament. Strangely enough, the website, which is the unofficial watchdog of the MEPs' records, is inaccessible.


Jim Allister rejects the offer to "speak" at the Dail

Reacting to the move which would allow some Northern Irish MPs and MEPs to have a right to speak at the Irish Dail, Jim Allister DUP MEP said: "I am elected to one foreign parliament only, and I will fulfill my mandate there and no where else. Thus I have no intention of participating in the Dail in order to promote republicanism's pretence that an all-Ireland parliament exists. If Sein Fein MPs cared for their electorate, then they'd represent them in Westminster to which they are elected. Judging Sinn Fein MEPs by their record in Strasbourg and Brussels they are clearly struggling to fulfill their mandate there, never mind pursuing phoney involvement in the Dail." It has also been reported that the DUP blamed the UUP over this issue: "the party's deputy leader Peter Robinson said he had evidence that the UUP were aware of the concession during negotiations. Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, said he had firm commitments from the Taoiseach that Northern politicians would be able to speak in the Dáil."


EU PEACE funding could be lost?

According to the BBC "the government has been warned millions of pounds in EU funding is in jeopardy because of a legal loophole. The local government auditor has told councils they do not appear to have the power to set up limited companies. This includes Local Strategic Partnerships, which distribute EU peace funding in Northern Ireland. The president of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association, Francie Molloy, said the government must pass new legislation. He said in the meantime it must provide councils with a cover letter to ensure their officials and local representatives are not left liable for any financial decisions taken. He expressed concerns that the LSPs, set up to distribute EU funding, could be closed down if the government fails to act. "My underestanding is that they cannot operate without the council being one of the major partners within that," he said. "So the European Union money is in danger here of not being distributed - that could run in to millions of pounds that would be lost, being sent back to Europe because it could not be spent." NILGA met with Lord Rooker, the direct rule minister for councils, last week to discuss the situation. "


Monday, August 01, 2005

Northern Irish MEPs in an "All Ireland Parliament?"

18 MPs and three MEPs from Northern Ireland would be given speaking rights as well as a role in committees in the Irish Dail reports UTV. The story tells that SF would like to see five MPs, including Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, as well as MEP Bairbre de Brun to participate in Dail's debates. However the UUP leader Sir Reg Empey, yesterday, is said to have "reacted furiously to the proposal which, he claimed, was another concession to Sinn Fein in the wake of the IRA's announcement that it is abandoning its armed campaign." ***UPDATE*** According to my sources, UUP MEP Jim Nicholson refuses to participate.